Column: It’s Mothers of Invention Day for Zappa fans



Sunday’s column marks a footnote in music history: the day Frank Zappa’s band adopted the name the Mothers, later to become the Mothers of Invention, before a gig in Pomona. That occurred May 9, 1965 — 50 years ago.

Above, the former Broadside Club, top, seen in 2000 by Zappa fan Peter Mackay, and a current view by yours truly; below, the Sportsman Tavern, again by Mackay in 2000 and yours truly today. Their significance is explained in the column. Neither bar was open in 2000, having closed decades before, but at least the buildings look closer to their original form then.

Incidentally, the Frank Zappa Chronology (disclamatory motto: “Information is Not Knowledge”) was invaluable in fixing dates and locations.



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Claudia Lennear at Rhino


Claudia Lennear, right, talks about her musical experiences Saturday with KSPC-FM’s DJ Ike Rhythm (as station general manager Erica Tyron handles the sound duties). This took place on the stage at Claremont’s Rhino Records. Were you there? A few dozen of us were, and the talk was fascinating. Lennear, you’ll recall, was a ’60s and ’70s backup singer who was featured in the documentary “20 Feet From Stardom,” and she lives in Pomona.

I shot two short videos. In one, she talks about her 1973 solo song “Not at All,” about Mick Jagger, and in the other, she performs the song “Gee Whiz” a cappella.

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Column: Beastie Boys’ ‘Paul’s Boutique’ put KSPC duo in business

Friday’s column is a paean to the 1989 Beastie Boys album that came out 25 years ago today. There’s even a local angle: the Dust Brothers, who co-produced, met at the Claremont radio station in 1985.

You might say this column has been in the works for years. I learned about the duo’s Claremont connection back in 1998 or so when researching notable people who attended school in the Inland Valley. A year ago, I read the “33 1/3” book on “Paul’s Boutique,” which goes into great detail on its making and tells about the KSPC connection. But that was around the time of the album’s 24th anniversary. (In hip-hop terms, the timing was ill.) So I took notes on a paper napkin (!) of page numbers for easy reference, put the napkin in the book and made a note on my calendar for 2014, learning delightedly that the anniversary coincided with a column day.

And here I am with a column. See, I only make it look easy.

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Column: Pomona punk scene set stage for man’s Nirvana photobomb


Sunday’s column tells a story about the above photograph from an early Nirvana concert as I interview the guy at the far left in the Angry Samoans shirt. He’s Bob Durkee, a punk fan who was connected to the Pomona scene during the ’80s. I let him talk about that and about how he ended up in an iconic photo.

You can listen to audio of the 45-minute concert here.

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California Jam followup that wasn’t to be


Reader Richard Nunez of Pomona reminds us that after the April 6, 1974 California Jam concert at Ontario Motor Speedway, another mega-concert was planned for that Aug. 3: Summer Jam West.

he bill: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and the Beach Boys, plus Joe Walsh and Jesse Colin Young, with “special guest” The Band. What a show that would have been.

Ticket price: $12.50, a bump from California Jam’s $10. (Nunez was at Cal Jam too.) Nunez’ bill is for $13.25, including 75 cents tax, from a Ticketron outlet at Sears in Pomona.

Evidently ticket sales were soft and the show was canceled. It was CSNY’s only L.A.-area date in their summer tour. A few days later, roughly the same lineup appeared in New York and drew a reported 75,000.

“I kept the ticket instead of getting my money back,” big spender Nunez says. “Now that would have been a great time. You should have been there lol.”

Although there was talk of more concerts at the speedway after Cal Jam, I don’t know that any took place until Cal Jam II on March 18, 1978.


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California Jam, 1974



California Jam, a rock festival that took place April 6, 1974, at Ontario Motor Speedway, drew 200,000 people. My Sunday column hits some of the high points. Allen Pamplin of the California Jam Fan Club on Facebook sent me multiple photos. Here are 10. The two above originally came from Alan Lancendorfer.





The above four are uncredited. The bottom four were contributed by promoter and emcee Don Branker. Rare Earth, the day’s first band, is performing in the next to last image. A roadie adjusts a microphone in the final image.





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DA and JH: ‘Name That Tune’


Me and the late John Harrelson, May 27, 2011, outside the Press in Claremont. As I wrote in my tribute column last week:

My favorite memory is of an afternoon we spent at the Press, first at lunch, then outside, perched on the window ledge, watching the world go by as he smoked. The Press’ satellite radio was playing rock oldies, and we played “Name That Tune,” competing to guess the artist and title before the other, then trading opinions and trivia about the bands.

A man named John Thomas posted this photo to Harrelson pal John Neiuber’s Facebook page last week, following my column’s appearance, with the notation “Name That Tune.” Neiuber says: “He told me he was outside listening to you guys, enjoying the banter, and just happened to capture the moment.”

I was so surprised and touched, I about fell over when Neiuber walked up to me and told me about the photo’s existence. I have a vague memory of noticing someone had just taken our photo, someone Harrelson knew, but I quickly forgot the whole thing. That someone thought to take this photo and then thought it worth preserving — and knew who I was and connected it to my column two years later, for that matter — blows me away. Thank you, John Thomas.

Now if only I had audio! But that’s okay. I have my memories.

(That’s a copy of a Penguin edition of Mark Twain’s short stories by my side, incidentally.)

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John Harrelson, 1950-2013


Above, Harrelson at the Press, 2012.

John Harrelson, a singer-songwriter and guitarist from Ontario, died June 26 at age 62 of heart failure. Harrelson, a Chaffey High graduate, was a fixture at the Press in Claremont (both as a performer and a customer) and performed all over the world. He’s also the subject of a documentary making the film festival rounds, “Dead Man Rockin’,” referring to his near-death experience in 2006.

I’ll have more on him later this week because we were friends and he deserves the ink. In the meantime, a viewing will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesday at Draper Mortuary in Ontario. Harrelson’s Facebook page is one place to check in if you knew him, as is the “Dead Man Rockin'” page.

* Update: I’ve written an obituary about Harrelson. A column will be forthcoming.

** Update: And here’s Wednesday’s column.

Below is a 2007 video from the Press of Harrelson performing one of his catchiest songs, “Evangeline.” Pretty sure I was in the audience that night.

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Jane’s Addiction in Mount Baldy, 1990

Not only did the band perform in La Verne in 1987, they performed a private concert in Mount Baldy on July 7, 1990. You can find the setlist and more on the band’s website, which says in part:

“This was the first headlining show of the Ritual era. It was a special invite-only show in an outdoor amphitheater in Mt. Baldy, CA. Jane’s Addiction played at one end of a pool with fans around and inside the pool itself. Peter DiStefano, guitarist for Porno for Pyros, attended this show and can be seen in some video footage standing on the diving board.”

Footage was used in the video for the song “Stop!” The photo above is one of several taken by Tod Goldberg; see more on his blog. The show flier, from the band’s amazing website, is below; as you can see, the location was kept secret and concertgoers were bused in. There are at least two songs on video on YouTube. Here’s “Pigs in Zen.”

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‘Cruising With Ruben and the Jets’

Ray Collins’ best showcase was almost certainly the 1968 Mothers of Invention album “Cruising With Ruben and the Jets,” a silly but sweet tribute to doo-wop music and Mexican American culture on which the latter-day Claremont resident, who died Dec. 24, sings lead on every song, often in falsetto.

I had only owned the first three Mothers albums, which I appreciate more than actively like, but after Collins’ death, when I learned of his extensive involvement in “Ruben,” I bought a copy (at Rhino Records, natch). I like it.

A sort of concept album, the sleeve notes tell the “story of Ruben & the Jets,” as if they were a real but amateur band, one based in this area (as the Pomona-founded Mothers were).

One line: “There was already 11 other guys in the band so when he quit nobody missed him except for his car when they had to go to rehearsal or play for a battle of the bands at the American Legion Post in Chino.”

Band members are said to listen to oldies at Ruben’s house before going “to Burger Lane,” which in what may or may not have been a coincidence was the name of restaurants in both Ontario and Pomona.

The Wikipedia page for the album has interesting details on its recording and subsequent history. And here’s a link to a video of the Collins showcase “Anything” from that album, with a photo montage.

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